Devil’s Punch Bowl
The Devil’s Punch Bowl is a large hollow of sandy heath which forms a natural amphitheatre in Surrey, UK. Such an unusual landscape feature has inspired many folk tales and legends, as people sought to explain how this came to be. Chiefly, they wondered, who could be big enough to make such a large, circular structure? Most naturally suspected Satan. It is said that Satan scooped out large clods of earth with his hands to fling at an enemy, in some versions the Norse God, Thor, and the scale of his excavations left a permanent scar on the landscape.
Another version has Satan so infuriated by the many churches built in Sussex during the Middle Ages that he tried to dig a tunnel from The Channel to flood the area, but was scared by a cock crowing and jumped away, creating the Devil’s Punch Bowl when he landed. The name itself can be explained by the weather. On cold, autumnal mornings, mist often collects in the hollow, and then spills out over the rim, much like the punch bowls seen at dinner parties. Who else but The Devil would need such a large container for all his booze?
Alternatively, Satan had nothing to do with it at all, and the Punch Bowl was created by spring water eroding the local sandstone over thousands of years, making it subside more than the wider area. The locale, however, has a longstanding association with the darker side of life. The road from London to Portsmouth used to run along the rim, and became the haunt of highwaymen in the 18th century. Three men were hanged at nearby Gibbet Hill for the notorious robbery and murder of an unidentified sailor in 1786. Perhaps Lucifer was in the area, after all.